Singye Dzong – The Lion Fortress
Singye Dzong - The mystical Lion Fortress Click on the link to read more about the Lion Fortress
A personal narrative of the journey to Singye Dzong- By Tshering Chuki Gyamtsho Click on the link to read
Atop a ridge overlooking Kurichhu river is a fortress called Lhuendrup Rinchentse Dzong – The Fortress of the Precious Peak of Spontaneous Fulfillment. According to National Library of Bhutan, the Dzong was initially constructed by Yonzin Ngagi Wangchuck in 1554, the youngest son of great Drukpa Lama Ngawang Choegyal as a meditation center. The present Dzong structure, according to Legshey Phendhey Wangchuk, was constructed in 1665 during the time of Trongsa Penlop Chogyel Minjur Tenpa after which a Rabdey was instituted by 4th Desi Gyalsey Tenzin Rabgay.
According to another account, Ngagi Wangchuk first meditated at Timula. Later, when he went to look for a winter seat, he arrived at the present site of Lhuentse Dzong. The local deity appeared before him in the form of a white, bleating goat which was taken as an auspicious sign. He then built a temple and named as Leyley Dzong (the fortress of the Goat) after the sound of the goat’s bleat. Another story says that a stone below the Dzong is in the shape of goat; and it is said that this stone bleated, alluding to the Dzong’s name. Another account states that below the Minjey village is a rock shaped like a frogthat bleated like goat. The people considered this an unfavorable sign and shifted the site to the present site.
Later, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel followed the routes of his great ancestor Yongzin Ngagi Wangchuk and visited Kurtoe Lhuentse Phodrang. During his visit, he planned to build a new Dzong but it could not be materialized due to presence of several local Kings who were not in good terms amongst themselves. Therefore, he prayed that a Dzong be built at Kurtoe Lhuentse Phodrang bringing whole of Kuri Dozhi under the control of central government in the future.
In 1654, the joint force of Gawa (King of Phagidung) and Dharma (King of Kidling) attacked Timula Dzongpoen Lhadhar for no reason. During that time, a civil war between Choetse Penlop Choegyal Minjur Tenpa and Bumthang Choekhor Dhepa had just ended and the forces of Choetse Penlop and Druk Desi were celebrating their victory. The relatives of Dzongpoen Lhadhar were aware of the presence of combined troops of Druk Desi and Choetse Penlop at Bumthang and approached Choetse Penlop for assistance. Choetse Penlop who was then well aware of Zhabdrung’s prophecy to bring Kurtoe region under central government consented to their request. Whole troops of Druk Desi and Choetse Penlop marched towards Kurtoe and captured two kings bringing Kurtoe under control of central government.
Lhuentse as a separate Dzongkhag is bordered by Bumthang in the west, Trashiyangtse in the east, Monggar in the south and Tibet in the north. The Dzongkhag covers an area of approximately 2888 sq. km with altitudes ranging from 600 to 5800 meters above sea level. It has warm summer and cold winter. The annual average temperature falls to 50 C in winter and rises to 33.50 C in summer. Annual rainfall ranges from 1000 to 1500 mm.
With 83.3% of the total land area under forest cover, Lhuentse Dzongkhag is home to many species of flora and fauna. It is also unravelled in terms of cultural heritage sites all associated with Guru Rimpoche and Tertons. An ancestral home of our monarchs also stands in original grandeur and beauty at Dungkar.
There are numerous pilgrim centers in Lhuentse. And almost all are associated with Guru Rimpoche and Tertons. Singye Dzong, Rinchen Bumpa, Phuningla, Ney Khenpajong, and Sangwai Dadru are the sacred places while Menkhar, Karphu, Lukchu, Kuenzangling, Goshogpang, Timula, Khochung lhakhang and Dungkar Choejee Naktsang are some of the oldest lhakhangs constructed by Buddhist luminaries like Guru Chowang, Ratna Lingpa, Pema Lingpa, Khedrup Kuenga Wangpo and Yongzin Ngagi Wangchuk. Dungkar Khetangbi Naktsang, where Jigme Namgyel was born, stands in original grandeur. The 149 ft Guru statue, the would-be the tallest one in the world, is being constructed at Takila under Menbi Gewog.
Singye Dzong & Roelmateng
There are five main sacred places associated with Guru Rimpoche who brought Buddhism to Bhutan. It is called sacred place of the body, speech, mind, qualities and activity. Singye Dzong is considered the most sacred place associated with activity while other four main sacred places are in Tibet. There are eight sacred places in Singye Dzong– all described as Dzongs. One will take a day to visit all these Dzongs and another day to visit Tshokar Tshona and Terday Lhatsog. Three hours walk down towards east is the Rolmateng Ney whereby one may take another day to visit the main sacred places.
According to the description of the sacred places, a visit to Singye Dzong shall liberate oneself from being born in lower realms and fulfill whatever one wishes and prays for his life.
Route / Lodge
The journey to Singye Dzong starts from Khomazam or Khoma village. It takes three days to reach Singye Dzong. One has to make two night halts on the way – first night at Khomagang or Tsikhang and second night at Thangkarmo. All pilgrims are advised to start early morning from Khoma on day 1 so as to reach Tsikhang before dark. To see the details of the route please visit Singye Dzong Route Map. In general the route is safe but all are warned to be careful especially at points where there are steep cliffs and a small wrong move would prove to be fatal sometimes. Thangkarmo is located in the wilderness with no villages nearby except for a small guesthouse. There is also a guest house at Tsikhang. Yet you will experience the natural music of Khomachhu as the guesthouse is just at the right bank of the stream. To avoid accommodation problems all groups are advised to carry your own tent especially during the peak season.
Travel and Health Advisory Note
All visitors must obtain a travel permit from Khoma gup and prior to obtaining the permit one must undergo proper medical checkups so as to prepare for the trip. Generally people with pressure problems and heart problems are advised to consult physicians and if they do suffer from such problems they must take the physicians’ advices seriously should they wish to continue on their pilgrimage to Singye Dzong. To carry your loads you can hire local horses but you must arrange them before you reach Khoma. For details you can contact the local gup @ 17704194.
When to visit
May to second week of October is the advisable season to visit Singye Dzong. Last week of September to second week of October is the best season as there shall be no rainfall and snowfall. You will need to confirm on the condition of footpath should you wish to visit in the summer season.
As the place is located at an altitude of 4482 meters above sea level, it is comparatively colder than other places. The altitude of Tshokar, Tshona and Terdag Lhatshog are even higher and has harsh climatic conditions.
One is advised to carry warm clothes and a very good sleeping bag to Singye Dzong. The routes are mostly wet and therefore all are advised to carry a good trekking boot and a pair of comfortable walking shoes. Use of shoe gaiters is highly recommended. If you are thinking of wearing a rain-boot and you are not used to wearing one, you will have to be prepared of the pain and the bristles it will cause.
Photos of interest